Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 1992-1999

Best Sportsbikes of the 1990’s – Part 2

Honda CBR600FYes, it’s time for part two of our purely subjective run-down of the best sportsbikes of the 1990s… that great decade that style (and great bike colour schemes) forgot! Drum roll, please…

5) Honda CBR600F
Year: 1990-1999
Price then: £6995 (1998)

Price now: £600-£2000
Power: 95bhp

Weight: 185 kilos (claimed)

Wheelbase: 1405mm (1998 CBR600F-W)

Top speed: 155mph

Why you wanted one then: What can we say about that most ubiquitous of machines – the Honda CBR600F? They were (and still are) pretty much all things to all men and women. These bikes are gentle enough to be a first post-test bike but also have the potential to win numerous British Supersport 600 titles in the 1990s alone (we count six in that decade…) Others may deride them as ‘lacking in character’ but Honda reliability and sheer outright brilliance bring a character and soul all of its own, in our eyes… It’s 100bhp and 150mph… how can that not be exciting?

Why you want one now: With the first Fs coming off the line more than 30 years ago and the best being from our era – these babies are cheap, plentiful and bulletproof.  If you’re holding £2000, this will get you anything from a very clean, decent original 1987 jelly-mould to a 1999 fuel-injected bike, but rough ones come in at around half that…

The best one:

Ducati 916We have to be a bit torn here… we could argue that the ally beam-framed F-X of 1999 is the best from the decade as it even did a sterling job of beating off the likes of the ZX-6R, GSX-R600 and wild R6, but we do love a steelie here at CB-Net…. That’s why we would go for anything from 1991-1998 (that’s F-M to F-W.) The later the better, but any of these are truly brilliant motorcycles.

4) Ducati 916
Year: 1994-1998
Price then: £12,150 (1994)

Price now: £3000-£10,000 (double for the rare SPs etc…)
Power: 115bhp @ 9000rpm (claimed)

Weight: 195 kilos (dry, claimed)

Wheelbase: 1410mm

Top speed: 160mph

Why you wanted one then: We ‘ere would say this is one of the most beautiful bikes ever, not just of the 1990s… This bike married three things together in perfect unity: first, the brilliance of Massimo Bordi’s liquid-cooled eight-valve Desmo, secondly, Massimo Tamburini’s beautiful styling and aesthetics and thirdly Ducati’s success-hungry race department… All three stars aligned to create a very successful beauty… OK, so it was slower, heavier, longer and more expensive than a FireBlade, but we still wanted one…

Why you want one now: For its sheer beauty at the very least? This bike is as iconic as an original GSX-R, or Blade, or R1. And remember the place this bike has in history? The 916 (OK and the Monster) helped make Ducati’s fortune, while on the racetrack it took Carl Fogarty and others to World Championship success. Today it still looks awesome and made its successor- the 999 – look as though it had been whacked by the ugly stick.

The best one: Even as recently as five years back you could get a decent one for £3500… not anymore! Rough old dogs will start at £5K min and rise to a dizzying £20K or more for the rare specials/SP/Sport Production versions. DO check to see the bike isn’t a Biposto masquerading as an SP and DO look for full service history. These babies need looking after. As a general rule of thumb, even if the first Stradas are desirable as the first of the breed, reliability went up from the 1997 buy-out of Ducati by the Texas Pacific Group.

1998-1999 Yamaha R13) Yamaha YZF-R1
Year: 1998-on
Price then: £9199 (1998)

Price now: £2500-£6000
Power: 150bhp@ 9800rpm (claimed)

Weight: 177 kilos (dry, claimed)

Wheelbase: 1395mm

Top speed: 170mph

Why you wanted one then: Clearly, this was the first bike to better the FireBlade, so people wanted one and – at the time – Yamaha UK feared (rightly) that they couldn’t get enough of them…This bike was worth the wait (and lack of weight.) It had an amazing150bhp-claimed from its 20-valve motor, the shortened chassis came (they said) from Yamaha’s 500cc GP bike, it had awesome ‘Blue-Spot’ brakes and the looks of the original 4XV showed this to be the best-looking bike to come from Japan (until the 2002-on 5PW at least…)

Why you want one now: This thing still looks fresh… and 150 (claimed) bhp is not shabby 21 years on… Opinion is divided as to the best launch colour scheme: we say the lovely deep blue, but everyone else wants the white/red. What do you think?

The best one: We know that only the original 4XV is a ‘90s’ bike, but the 2000-2001 5JJ has refinements with the looks of the original while the heavily updated 5PW of 2002-2003 is a corker too… so beautiful. Price-wise all of these models are much of a muchness… with rough ones of any version kicking off around £2K and heading north from there. Many dealers are now wise to the fact that originals are going up in value, so watch tidy low-milers increase year-on-year…

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD2) Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD
Year: 1996-1999
Price then: £8999 (1998)

Price now: £1500-£4000
Power: 126bhp @12,000rpm

Weight: 179 kilos (claimed, dry)

Wheelbase: 1400mm

Top speed: 165mph

Why you wanted one then: This should be the GSX-R that we purists hate… away went the double-cradle frame, for chrisssakes! But instead it was (and still is) a winner in our book… In came a beam frame and dimensions based on Kevin Schwantz’s 1993 500cc title-winning RGV500. But it’s the motor that makes this machine… It’s madness the way the revs rise when you open the loud handle. Back in the day this was the 750 that could and did beat the big 900cc bikes in road tests. The SRAD was a devil’s bike and we loved it.

Why you want one now: This bike is still capable of doing the business today… a well-sorted/looked after 23-year-old SRAD is a lot of fun! But buyer beware: GSX-Rs have been owned by deranged madmen (and women) been accessorised by the aesthetically-challenged and ‘tuned’ by the mechanically deficient. They don’t wear as well as a comparable Blade or R1, either, but find a good one – and it’s still will deliver the madness you require and on a budget, too!

The best one: While the later, fuel-injected W-W model was better– and as ‘future classic’ as the heavily-SRAD-based 750Y of 2000-on is, we’d still plump for that mean, moody carb-equipped original WT in the corporate blue and white. Prices are getting stronger, but you can still get one sub-£2000, even if some are up at £4000…

Honda CBR900RR FireBlade 1992-19991) Honda CBR900RR FireBlade
Year: 1992-2003
Price then: £8195 (1994)

Price now: £1500 -£7000

Power: 122bhp @ 10,500rpm (claimed, but you could get anything between 100-120bhp at the rear tyre)

Weight: 185 kilos (dry, claimed)

Wheelbase:  1405mm

Top speed: 168mph

Why you wanted one then: Yes, you’re probably not shocked by this decision, but we at CB-Net reckon the Blade is the best overall sportsbike of the decade… Not only did it change the rules, it ruled for most of the decade as the best-selling and performing bike of that time. Well, at least from 1992-1998 when the R1 finally eclipsed it. They went well, were loved and sold by the bucket-load: 1106 were sold in 1992, rising to 2866 in 1997.

Why you want one now: Clearly, this is a modern classic and one that’s appreciating. A decent Blade can still turn heads and perform out on the open road.

The best one: Can we fudge this and say ‘all of them?’ To explain our answer, we’d say this. We know that the RR-W and RR-X of 1998 and 1999 may have been beaten hands-down by the R1, but – being unfashionable – makes it a good, cheap Blade today. For purists, go for the first and second gen’ RR-N/P or RR-R/S (Foxeye) while – perhaps- the RR-T/V offer the best of both worlds, looking like a ‘FireBlade’ while performing brilliantly. And, into the millennium we’d say the 2003 954cc Blade is one of the sweetest bikes of all… Prices: rough projects can come in around a grand, butchered streetfighters (yuck) at around £1500, but a nice 1990s Blade starts around £2000. If you want to know where things are headed, some chancers now ask around £7000 for a 20-30K ‘clean’ original 1992 model…

CB-NET DISCLAIMER!: Yes, we know there are many ‘sportsbikes’ missing from our top 10. We could have stuffed a VFR or two in there… either 750 or 800… Maybe a Honda Blackbird, the RC45, the other 600 sports machines etc… or an R7? But we wanted to try and balance desirability with practicality and affordability – and it had to be a sportsbike, so no Fazer or Bandit 600 either! Not putting in the YZF750 does even rankle with us, mind…

And the 1990s lemons…

Yes, for every 1990’s Oasis ‘Wonderwall’ there’s a Whigfield ‘Saturday Night’. Here are our sour-tasting lemons of the 1990s, both sportsbike and otherwise!

Let’s start with the Italians and Bimota – any Bimota apart from the sweet Ducati powered DB4 was pretty much shite. The SB6/7 series married a decent Suzuki motor and mated it to awful fuel-injection, while the V-Due effectively killed the company before the new millennium. Shame!  Laverda twins – all of them looked good but promised little and were based on motors from decades back…. Moto Guzzi Centauro –a snail with wheels that looked faster and better than it was. Aprilia Moto 6.5 – awful Phillipe Stark-designed thing: the Pegaso motor shoved in something a teapot designer did on a Friday afternoon…  Ducati 400SS Junior – take the under-powered 600SS and give it even fewer horses and you get this. Looks good, goes bad. Suzuki TL1000R – a V-twin with the width of a four-cylinder and ‘World Superbike’ on the fairing. Who were they trying to kid?

Not a patch on the S we love so much… (and didn’t put in our top 10…) Honda RVF RC45 – reviled at the time as over-priced and not as good as a Blade, only now do people love it. Still too expensive for our list… Yamaha GTS1000A – bloated, single-sided front-end, castrated (100bhp) thing that went well enough but sold nowt. As a tour-de-force it worked, but not as a bike on the shop floor you had to sell… Yamaha SZR660 – take a vibey single motor and give it some sporty duds to make it look like a race bike. Nah…